Issue Brief

Testimony: House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

March 19, 2010

"Antibiotic-resistant infections have been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as one of the top public health challenges in the United States. Massive use of medically important antibiotics like penicillin and tetracycline in food animal production is a significant contributor to this problem. Antibiotic-resistant pathogens, which are found in and on food animals, can be transferred to humans though several pathways, including handling of farm animals, movement through ground and surface water, and most commonly on contaminated food.

Animal food products can become contaminated during slaughter and processing and food and crops can become contaminated with resistant bacteria in the field or during food processing. Infections caused by foodborne pathogens are more severe and more costly to treat than those caused by susceptible bacteria. The existence of resistant bacteria also means that more cases of infection will occur than would otherwise be the case.

As recently reported in The New York Times, some infections caused by resistant bacteria now cannot be treated. There simply are no longer antibiotics that work. There are 5,815 hospitals in the U.S. registered with the American Hospital Association. The yearly cost associated with antibiotic-resistant patient infections in one U.S. hospital has been estimated at $13.5 million. Additional research and data are critical to understanding how to address the public health and food safety concerns associated with such uses. As you consider fiscal year 2011 appropriations, we would like to propose three appropriations that will help research, monitor, and find solutions to the problem of antibiotic resistance. The requests below are in priority order:

Request #1: $5 million of funds from the FDA's Transforming Food Safety Initiative to finish, update, and publish reviews on the safety of antimicrobials important in human medicine currently used for nontherapeutic purposes in food-producing animals for their role in the selection and dissemination of antibiotic-resistant foodborne pathogens.

Request #2: $3 million to fund Research and Education Grants for the Study of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria as authorized in Section 7521 of the 2008 Farm Bill.

Request #3: $10 million for the FDA/USDA/CDC National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) in order to expand data collection by $3 million beyond current annual funding of approximately $7 million."

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